This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Loopholes seen in Missouri meth law (Missouri)
Buyers can get around limits on the purchase of materials used to make the drug, officials say.


Restricting sales of the key ingredient in methamphetamine — pseudoephedrine — brought a decline in lab busts last year. But law enforcement and government officials say there are loopholes in the law.

Statistics released in January by the Missouri State Highway Patrol show that from July, when the law was enacted, to December, meth lab busts were down 44 percent from the same period in 2004. Lab busts were down 49 percent in mid-Missouri for all of 2005.

“Certainly it has been very successful,” said Capt. Ron Replogle, director of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Drug and Crime Control Division.

The law makes it harder for meth producers to make large quantities of meth because it forces stores to keep tablet medicines containing pseudoephedrine, like Sudafed, behind the counter, limits sales to adults ages 18 and older and requires sellers to keep a log of all purchases.

But the law doesn’t require pharmacies to share their logs electronically with other stores. It doesn’t require the same limitations for sales of liquid pseudoephedrine, which can still be used to produce meth. And it doesn’t restrict Missourians from buying pseudoephedrine online, meaning sales can go undetected.

“What they really need to do, in my opinion, is to real-time monitor the pseudoephedrine pills,” said Trooper Rich Ferrari, who is the supervisor of the East Central Drug Task Force and has been busting meth labs in Missouri for seven years. “There is really nothing that is tying all the pseudodatabases into one huge database.”

The law requires pharmacists to keep at least a handwritten log of all sales, but law enforcement officials said they don’t have the personnel to review those databases beyond random checks or when suspicious entries are reported.

“That still doesn’t stop you from buying two boxes in Walgreens in Columbia and then going to Wal-Mart and buying two boxes and then going to D&H (Drug Store) and buying two boxes and then coming up to Centralia and buying two boxes,” Ferrari said.

A law enacted in August 2003 limits customers to purchasing only two boxes of pseudoephedrine at one time, but Replogle said he arrests people who go store-to-store to buy the maximum number of boxes. Called “smurfing,” it’s a way for meth producers to buy more than the 3.6 grams a day and 9 grams a month of pseudoephedrine permitted under last year’s law. Nine grams is about 300 tablets, and depending on the tablet size, it takes about 500 to 600 pills to make an ounce of methamphetamine.

“There is still a way to scam around the system,” Ferrari said.

Larger stores and pharmacies, such as some Walgreens, Wal-Marts and Target stores, keep electronic databases, but they are only shared within each company. Wal-Mart established its own methamphetamine guidelines in 1997, and Sgt. Shannon Jeffries, narcotics investigator for the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department, said pharmacists at the larger stores would alert him of suspicious purchases even before Missouri’s law was enacted.

State Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, sponsored the legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives last year. He said that initially the legislation included a provision for a shared database, but that was removed because of insufficient funding.

A bill recently introduced by state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, would create such a listing. It would track sales of all Schedule II drugs, such as Ritalin, through Schedule V, which includes pseudoephedrine drugs.

Crowell said that the bill would enhance last year’s law, and he said it would make it easier for law enforcement to cross-examine logs.

“Do we put it on pencil and paper or put it on a computer where it’s useful,” he said, adding that some logbooks are filled with illegible handwriting. The bill has yet to move to a full Senate vote, but Crowell said he hoped it could be passed this year.

Liquid pseudoephedrine was not included in last year’s law because it is considered more difficult to use in meth production, but under Missouri law possession of any amount of liquid or tablet pseudoephedrine over 24 grams is considered intent to manufacture.

“We haven’t seen any liquid pseudoephedrine labs,” Replogle said. But he said since people have been arrested for having more than the legal limit, it wouldn’t surprise him to see a liquid pseudoephedrine lab bust.

As meth producers attempt to find ways to get around the law, one loophole remains outside of Missouri’s control: the Internet.

Current state law doesn’t restrict the sale of pseudoephedrine online, said John Fougere, press secretary for Attorney General Jay Nixon.

Unless the online pharmacy is in Missouri, state legislators are powerless because only the federal government can regulate interstate commerce.

After several Midwestern states enacted laws intended to curb meth production, meth producers started buying pseudoephedrine on eBay, Ferrari said. EBay has since voluntarily restricted the sale of pseudoephedrine products on its site, and the online pharmacy has prohibited Missouri residents from buying pseudoephedrine products from its store.

Lesser-known Web sites sell pseudoephedrine and will ship it to Missouri, but Replogle said it would still be illegal for any resident to purchase more than 9 grams in a month from an online store outside Missouri. Behnen said these sales mostly go unnoticed unless arrested meth producers admit to law enforcement officials that they bought the medicine online.

Ferrari said that, despite the loopholes, the law has been successful in disrupting meth production in Missouri.

“It’s a very successful law, and I am very grateful,” Ferrari said. “It really has helped us out.”

But as with any new law, he said, there is always room for improvement.

Pending legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and co-authored by Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., would limit pseudoephedrine sales nationwide. Modeled after meth laws in Missouri and other Midwestern states, it would limit the amount of pseudoephedrine anyone in the United States could buy to 3.6 grams a day and 9 grams a month. Although the law would not establish a nationwide electronic database to track purchases, pharmacies would be required to check IDs and keep a logbook.

Behnen said that meth producers will always attempt to find loopholes in the law, and he said politicians and law enforcement officials must constantly be thinking of ways to make meth production more difficult in Missouri, which still leads the nation in meth production.

“It will be a constant battle but the thing is that we make it tougher and tougher for them each time,” he said. “We have to be vigilant and stay after them.”


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